"How one man got the world making pesto by hand", writes BBC

I had the good fortune to meet, interview and photograph Roberto Panizza, the man who has the world excited about making pesto by hand.  Here, I caught him in a rare quiet moment, at Il Genovese, the restaurant he and his brother own, in the city of Genova.  I cannot say enough good things about the restaurant ... the menu, the quality of the ingredients, and the friendliness of the staff there.  All are superb.

But Il Genovese is only one of many projects Roberto works on ... more on that in another post.

This weekend, I get to catch up with the man, as I fly in to take part in the 6th Pesto World Championship, hoping to be that New Zealander who makes a good pesto.   While there, I plan to gather as many stories and photographs, as is possible while competing. 

This event is an event that grows larger each time it is held ... a sign, I think, that the world is so very definitely embracing a return to the authentic ... in this case, to the old-fashioned way of making pesto while incorporating a recognition of the growing importance of good ingredients.

Their website tells the story of how it all began ...

I love the idea that it was created in the 90's, by group of friends who had a passion for gastronomy and for the art of being a bon vivant.

They came up with the idea of organising a World Championship for Genoese Pesto, using the mortar ...  Made with a Mortar, Campionato Mondiale di Pesto Genovese al Mortaio and the championship has gone on to become this huge international event that showcases Ligurian excellence.  But more than that, it has become a way of introducing the world to this ancient city, with its fascinating and complex history, loved by the likes of Charles Dickens, and so many other, including this Kiwi.

The association also promotes the culture of cultivating good traditions that start in infancy. It has a non-competitive contest for children, the Campionato dei Bambini, and offers other events dedicated to the little ones during the Rolli Days.

The BBC article is here.

The official recipe is here, on the website but the ingredients ...


  • 4 bunches of fresh PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Genoese basil, which guarantees high-quality taste and flavour
  • 30 g pine nuts
  • 445-60 g aged Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 20-40 g Fiore Sardo cheese (Pecorino Sardo), grated
  • 1-2 garlic cloves from Vassalico (Imperia)
  • 10 g coarse salt
  • 60-80 cc PDO extra-virgin olive oil from the “Italian Riviera”, renowned for its sweet and fruity taste, which adds flavour to the basil and dressing..

The Genova Pesto World Championship ... & Me

In lovely news, the best news I've had in months... I was recently invited to participate in the World Pesto Championships, in Genova, Italy.

I will be the first-ever New Zealand representative and, one of 100 competitors from around the world, competing to make pesto ... the old-fashioned way. 

Our task will be to prepare Genoese Pesto, using locally sourced, high-quality ingredients and yes, a traditional marble mortar and wooden pestle.

We will be judged by a jury composed of 30 experts ... restaurateurs, chefs and professional testers and they will then select 10 finalists in this year's search for a world pesto champion.

Am I nervous?

Mmmm, a little but honestly, the sheer joy I feel about returning to Genova is so much more and all nervousness disappears.  I have been continuing with my daily life but fighting to contain that bubble of joy that wells up when I think, 'Genova!  Soon!!'

The city, in that low-key yet always superb style I've come to associate with Genova, is opening its doors and you can read about other events here.

There will be news from me.  There will be blog posts.  There will be photographs too ... perhaps an avalanche either while I am there or in the days afterwards.  Although I find myself returning to my massive photo library titled GENOVA, again and again and may blog during these days before flying.

I'm there, in 6-days and really, I can't wait!!

The image above, those are the hands of Roberto Panizza, the king of this pesto kingdom ... demonstrating his skills for one of my photography workshop groups.  He's the loveliest man, that pesto man.  It will be good to see him again!

Ciao from the Kiwi, so absolutely ready to represent New Zealand in Italy.

I Am Missing That City, Its People ...

Coffee at Douce in Piazza Matteotti, Genova.

Or perhaps I am generally missing good coffee.  Even the highway autogrills do good coffee in Italy.

I am missing green beans, lightly cooked.  Tomatoes from Il Bio di Soziglia.  And adding the best riccotta from Le Gramole Olioteca to that mix.  Missing Francesca and Norma too.

Then I miss the possibility of eating Ravioli fatti in casa al “tuccu” di carne at Roberto's place, Il Genovese because Tuccu is the most divine sauce ever invented ... any place here on this earth.

I miss Stefano's restaurant because there are always stunning surprises in store when you eat and drink there. 

I miss the possibility of hearing Donatella singing and Luciano play there.  I am learning to miss Donatella's fried squash flowers too.  They were divine that night she took Helen and I home and cooked for us.  

I miss Barbara and Alessandra.  I most definitely miss Stefano.  I miss Lorenzo

I miss the 'ciao's' that I hear in the street.  I miss Pino & Silvana, and their divine pizzas.

I miss Boccadasse and my seat up on the hill, I miss Outi, Paula and Paola.  There is Davide, Federico, and Leah, and so many others. 

I'm thinking now  ... perhaps it all adds up to the fact that I'm simply missing Genova. And forgive me if your name isn't here because I'm sure to be missing you too  :-)


Below, a photograph of Luciano playing bass guitar (really, he is), taken at a performance he and Donatella gave recently.

Drawing a Breath

On Friday, I was 12 hours out in the city ... and for 10 of those hours I was carrying my 6kg+-heavy bag of camera gear.  And still, it was sublime.  It was one of those dizzying days where it feels like I flew with the eagles ... perhaps.

I set out with Shannon, an American living here, and we wandered and talked.  She knows this city, 2 years living here after some time spent in New Zealand.  That's how she found me and my blog.  She searched New Zealand and Genova.

We said goodbye only when it was time for me to meet my traveling companion off the train.  It was a brisk walk through the city to Brignole train station.  Home for 10 minutes, refreshed and I was off to a confectionery laboratory that has been in the hands of the same family since 1780.

A tour that astounded me was followed by an interview with the loveliest gentleman.  Hours later, Anna, from Beautiful Liguria, and I walked back through the city and I had just a few minutes to change, to finally drop off that camera gear, before heading out to dinner. 

What a dinner!  If you find yourself in Genoa, you must try Ristorante Il Genovese because there is nothing about the experience that can cause regret.  And if you do, and if you love meat and pasta, then the Ravioli fatti in casa al 'tuccu'di carne is the one that I fell entirely in love with.

The sauce is 5 hours in preparation and you can taste the time and the care taken.  But everything, from the gnocchi di patate fatti in casa al pesto,  the cima genovese ricetta antica con patate al forno, the brandacujun di stocca fissoe, and the latte dolice fritto, even the canestrelli ... all exquisite.  And that was only what we actually ordered.

I know I read like I'm exaggerating but I was there with a Flemish Belgian, famous for being a people of few words perhaps.  He loved it too.  I think the secret lies in the attention the Panizza brothers pay to the details.  Quality products and a love of food.  It's an absolute must when you're here but remember to book.

And just as I thought the day might ending I received an email from an art gallery in NYC.  They would like to represent my photography in their gallery. 

So sleeping was a bit of an issue that night but I had to ... I was exhausted by the week I had just experienced.  The rings under my eyes were black and maybe a container ship could park inside of them. 

This is Genova for me.  I go high, I go low ... but oh how I live when I am here.


In Genova Today ...

This morning began in Palazzo Ducale with Anna, Emanuela and coffee.  And then, after long and interesting conversations, we went wandering and they introduced me to some of the treasures that hide here in Europe's largest surviving medieval quarter.

Every shop was a story of generations and of families. The passion for what they were doing, their willingness to allow photographs, and to answer questions, was divine. 

It was 1.30pm before I remembered I hadn't actually eaten at all.  Well nothing besides a small spoonful of the most marvelous whipped cream at Crema Buonafede Caffetteria.  I'm being sent there for breakfast tomorrow. I have my instructions regarding my order.

I returned to the apartment, downloaded the photographs, the voice recorder too.  Enjoyed some warm farinata from the shop across the alley and then it was time to go out again.

This was an interview I was absolutely looking forward to.  Roberto Panizza is not only a remarkable businessman but he is a warmhearted soul who welcomed us in and sat down with us to talk for a while, despite his incredibly intense schedule. 

There is the restaurant he runs with his brother, Il Genovese and this website too, should you want to order some truly excellent Italian Food. There is much much more but there's an interview. I'll share when it's done.

And now, here I am, munching on potato chips and drinking a little red wine.  Exhausted but so deeply satisfied with all that I discovered and was introduced to in Genova today.  This city ...